THE URBAN FOREST
THE URBAN FOREST
Our eyes, washed clean of belief,
Lift incredulous to their fearsome crowns of bolts, trusses,
Struts, nuts, insulators, and such
Barnacles as compose
These weathered encrustations of electrical debris -
Each a Gorgon's head, which, seized right,
Could stun us to stone.
John Updike / Telephone Poles
THE MEDUSA POLE
Hydro poles have a mythic quality. Even the blandest histories of electric power mention Prometheus who went up to Olympus and stole some sparks from the "wheel of the sun" and brought them back to earth. The Medusa Pole refers to the Gorgon in Greek mythology, associating the unruly high voltage wires on some hydro poles to her crown of writhing snakes. Anyone who looked directly at Medusa turned to stone.
THE GALLOWS POLE
London's old jail is located near One Dundas Street, directly across the river from The Urban Forest. Cornelius Burley was the first and second person to be hung there in 1830. The rope snapped on the first attempt. After his execution his skull was taken on tour by phrenologist Orson Squire Fowler. The skull was later put on display in the entrance hall to Eldon House along with an umbrella stand made from an elephant's foot from India and animal trophies from Africa.
THE SIMCOE POLE
A journal entry written on March 2, 1793 by Major Littlehales when he accompanied Col. John Graves Simcoe, first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada on a journey to Detroit from Niagara, when the town site of London was first established:
We struck the Thames at one end of the low, flat Island, enveloped with shrubs and trees . . . We walked over a rich meadow, and at its extremity came to the forks of the River. The Gov'r wished to examine this situation and its environs, therefore we remained here all day. He judged it to be a situation eminently calculated for the metropolis of all Canada.... Various figures were delineated on trees at the forks of the River Thames, done with charcoal and vermilion. The most remarkable were the imitation of men with deer's heads. We saw a fine eagle on the wing, and two or three large birds, perhaps vultures." The last two sentences are reproduced in wire emulating Littlehales' copperplate handwriting.
THE BECK POLE
The international symbol for organizations fighting tuberculosis and lung disease is the Cross of Lorraine, a double-barred cross.
Ontario Hydro, the first publicly owned electric utility in Canada was created in 1906 through the efforts of Londoner Sir Adam Beck. Beck was driven to serve the community and reasonably priced hydro wasn't his only campaign. In 1910, Adam and Lillian's daughter Marion was diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to a famous sanatorium in Europe to recover. The Becks organized the London Health Association which built a sanitorium in Byron and then established a system of sanatoria throughout Ontario to treat tuberculosis which was a dreaded disease among the working class who couldn't afford proper treatment. [PHOTO RIGHT: note the stove burners stapled to the pole]
SAME POTENTIAL POLE
"Same Potential" is a curious and intriguing term. It describes the state of a bird on a wire which is immune from the dangers of high voltage wire, unless it makes contact with another conducting element such as another wire, or a transformer. And do birds on a wire always face east?
WORTLEY VILLAGE POLE
Wortley Road and Elmwood Avenue is the site of the historic Normal School which is in a perilous situation, in need of repair, and soon to be abandoned by the Catholic School Board. This is a reproduction of a hydro pole at that intersection. [While the building still stands empty, the Normal School has been extensively renovated since this was written in 2005 and the lovely old telephone poles with their blue glass insulators in the area have been replaced]